Civil Society Roundtable COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean

by HCC

The first webinar of our special COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean series:  Civil Society Roundtable COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean, was held on Friday June 19th 2020 from 10am – 11.30am EST and featured civil society leaders from across the region sharing their experiences and showcasing their responses to the coronavirus pandemic.


On March 27th 2020, the HCC published an Open Letter to CARICOM Heads calling for ‘urgent action to protect those living with NCDs from COVID-19.  On March 31st, 2020, the HCC released the HCC COVID-19 Communication Strategy to guide HCC advocacy efforts and communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy has five primary objectives:  increase knowledge about COVID-19 and NCDs; promote access to, and consumption of, healthy foods; promote access to essential medicines and treatments for PLWNCDs; promote good mental and physical health; and engage young people as key players in the COVID-19 response.  The strategy aims to contribute to universal health and universal health coverage (UH/UHC) and reduction of inequities, which is a key HCC guiding principle.

This webinar series fulfils two of the four strategies identified to deliver on the objectives of the HCC COVID-19 Communication Strategy: information dissemination and strengthening of CSO communication networks for information and experience sharing.  The webinars will target a number of stakeholder groups, foremost of which are HCC CSO member organisations. Secondary target groups include regional policymakers and technical personnel across various ministries (including health, education, finance, trade etc.), members of academia, national, regional and international partners, the general public including students and the private sector.

The webinar series aims to build advocacy capacity for the promotion of initiatives and policies that support the long-term health of all, particularly vulnerable persons and those PLWNCDs. The webinars will leverage the expertise of diverse stakeholders and partners including civil society actors, technical officers, academics, health care practitioners, and youth to bring awareness to the varied and complex dimensions of COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean in order to guide the multisectoral approach needed to pave the way forward. They will showcase the experiences and lessons learned thus far and highlight good practices in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of these efforts.  Current initiatives, solutions and policy recommendations will be discussed to ensure that we “build back better” by strengthening our whole-of-society response to shaping the COVID-19 health legacy.


The objective of the civil society roundtable webinar: Civil Society Perspectives on COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean was to provide a platform for Caribbean CSO leadership to share and showcase their experiences, challenges, successes and lessons learned in responding to COVID-19 and planning for the future beyond COVID-19.

Panellists represented the leadership of civil society organisations from across CARICOM. These individuals and their teams have demonstrated unique courage and resilience.  They have adapted their operations to respond to an unprecedented challenge which has devastated entire communities and disproportionately affected the lives of people with chronic diseases in the Caribbean and across the globe. With limited resources exacerbated by various stages of ‘lockdown’ environments, they have emerged as true champions whether adjusting their core operations to facilitate uninterrupted care through telemedicine, ensuring continuity of access to essential medicines and critical treatments, or providing ongoing psychosocial support and healthy foods to maintain immune health. The pandemic, although not having had the anticipated direct dire consequences thus far on Caribbean people, is far from over and the road ahead promises uncertainty due to the tremendous financial impact and associated adverse health impacts. We must also brace for the possible threat of ‘second waves’ and the multitude of impacts on PLWNCDs.  The flexibility which has been the hallmark of the CSO response to date will need to feature strongly moving forward.

Through an interactive panel discussion, we heard perspectives on what is needed to assist CSOs in their future work as we navigate COVID-19 in the coming months. We also heard their perspectives on the legacy of COVID-19 for PLWNCDs and what is needed to dramatically shift our environments to reduce NCDs and protect those living with NCDs from future pandemics.

The panellist discussions were guided by the following questions:

  1. How has COVID-19 impacted your constituents (how have PLWNCDs coped with COVID-19 adjusted ie. modified behaviours)?
  2. The WHO/PAHO recently launched a report confirming the reality on the ground that COVID-19 has severely disrupted services for NCDs. What has been the situation in your country and how has your organisation coped with this?
  3. How has COVID-19 changed your operations (challenges and solutions)?
  4. What are some short- and long-term steps your gov’t can take to help CSOs to achieve greater impact with their work?
  5. What does COVID-19 mean for your organisations moving forward?
  6. Within the context of NCDs, what specific steps can governments and CSOs take to increase resilience post COVID-19?

Civil Society Roundtable: COVID-19 and NCDs in the Caribbean Webinar. (view/download flyer)

PanellistsPANEL 1 Moderated by Sir Trevor Hassell, HCC President


  • Debbie Chen, Executive Director, Heart Foundation Jamaica
  • Ruth Jaramillo, President, Belize Cancer Society
  • Dr. Diane Brathwaite, Medical Director, Barbados Diabetes Foundation
  • Mr. Andrew Dhanoo, President, Diabetes Association of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Dr. Bernadette Saunders, Psychosocial Support Officer, The Bahamas Red Cross
  • Q&A: Moderated by Dr. Karen Sealey, HCC Board Member, Founder TT NCDA

PANEL 2 Moderated by Dr. Damian Greaves, HCC Board Member; Chair of the Grenada National NCD Commission


  • Dr. Kenneth Connell, President, Heart & Stroke Foundation of Barbados
  • Dr. Tamara Remy, President, St. Lucia Cancer Society
  • Dr. Nancy Larco, Executive Director, FHADIMAC, Haiti
  • Mrs. Juanita James, President, Antigua Diabetes and Hypertension Association
  • Dr. Mark West, President, Thoracic Society of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Q&A: Moderated by Ms. Maisha Hutton, HCC Executive Director


THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEANThe objective of the second webinar: THE FUTURE TALKS: COVID-19 AND NCDS IN THE CARIBBEAN was to highlight the experiences youth face during COVID, including those living with NCDs. The webinar also served as a platform to amplify the youth’s perspective on the monumental change needed moving forward to protect PLWNCDs and lessen the burden for future generations. Read more


The Future Talks”: COVID AND NCDs in the CARIBBEAN - THE LEGACYThe objective of the third webinar: “The Future Talks”: COVID AND NCDs in the CARIBBEAN – THE LEGACY was to gain insight from youth experts who will present their professional and personal perspectives on how the region’s health systems can “build back better” from the COVID experience. Read more


WEIGHING THE IMPACT OF COVID-19: NUTRITION, OVERWEIGHT, OBESITY AND NCDSThe objective of the fourth webinar: “Weighing the Impact of COVID-19: Nutrition, Overweight, Obesity and NCDs” was to reflect on the nutrition environment over the course of the pandemic and the resulting direct and indirect impacts on health; and discuss individual and population level strategies to encourage improved nutrition and management of diet-related NCDs during and after the pandemic. Read more

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